University of Michigan computer science professor Alex Halderman was able to demonstrate in May 2014 that online voting systems are not secure.University of Michigan
Internet voting appeals to voters with disabilities because accessibility is a real problem. Polling places are required to have accessible booths at which blind voters can listen to the choices spoken to them, but often the volume is poor and poll workers are untrained in how to operate them, advocates say. Blind people who wish to vote absentee often must visit the election office and rely on an election worker to faithfully mark their ballots for them, a betrayal of the right to privacy in voting. There is no available system at polling places that permits blind-deaf people or people with motor-skill impairments to vote privately and independently.
“It was very degraded, and how do I know if he voted what I wanted?” said Cindy LeBon, president of the Maryland chapter of the American Council for the Blind (ACB), a rival advocacy group to the NFB, of her experience voting absentee in 2012. “And everybody can hear what I’m saying. I’m whispering, but they could hear. It’s humiliating to have to do that.”
Still, while the NFB supports the proposed Maryland system and says its members found it accessible in trials, the ACB doesn’t. Noel Runyan, a blind computer technology consultant and ACB member, wrote a 10-page report on his trial with the Maryland system in which he said, among other things, that the speech-recognition capability was poor, the voter instructions were confusing and it was impossible without help — thus risking exposing his choices — to determine which of the many printed pages he was supposed to sign.
Blake said members of her group found the system workable and dismissed the security issues. “It’s commonplace for people to do banking online now, purchase goods online. I don’t see how it’s different about marking a ballot online. We tend to forget there are all kinds of security risks involved in paper ballots as well.”
That’s an argument e-voting opponents hear frequently. Simons noted that banks get hacked constantly, but financial institutions cover most consumer losses seamlessly as a cost of doing business. Furthermore, the risks involved with paper ballots pales in comparison to the possible fraud — and the population of possible saboteurs — endemic in an Internet-connected system, she said.
“Once you get computers involved, you can do things on a much more massive scale and with much less risk of being caught,” she said. “If I want to sabotage an election, I can get a hacker in Tajikistan to do it. Or the Russian mafia is full of smart people who break into systems all the time. Look at all the money that’s spent on the presidential elections or the Senate races. A small portion of that money would be a huge windfall for somebody. There’s probably quite a few people who would decide to move off somewhere beyond the reach of U.S. law and rig an election.”